Whether the queue is the first or last (or first AND last) experience a customer has with your business, it’s important that their time spent in the queue is pleasant and as brief as possible. When it comes to managing your queue, balancing your customers’ expectations with the goals of your business can be a challenge. We’ve boiled down some of the most important credos surrounding queue management and the customer experience into these 5 queuing practices:
Have you ever stood in the queue at your business and experienced the line exactly as your customers do? Are you aware of how much value your customers place on the goods, services, or experiences they’re standing in line for? At what point does their unwillingness to wait any longer take over and cause them to leave? When you truly know your customers and how they experience your queues, you are better equipped to evaluate your queuing strategy and identify ways to improve. For example, you might discover that your customers require more guidance to direct them in, and out of, the queue. You might find your customers are ultra-impatient when it comes to waiting. Or you might even discover that for your products, waiting in line is a welcome part of the customer experience. It all starts and ends with knowing your customers.
Consider both sides of the counter – the wait time for customers and the productivity of employees – and you’re likely to find plenty of opportunity to reduce or optimize wait times. Service agent productivity can be improved with solutions that make it easier for agents to hail customers – text-based messaging, station lights, or digital signage are technologies to increase service-time efficiency and decrease wait times. Directing customers to open queues or queues that aren’t as busy can also cut down on the wait. Finally, implementing a more efficient queue design, such as a single-line queue configuration, can help to reduce average wait times.
When it comes to queues, the perceived wait is just as important, if not more important, than the actual wait. The Wall Street Journal reports that, after five minutes, a customer perceives their wait time to be twice the actual wait. Distracting customers from the wait they’re experiencing is one of the best ways to reduce the perceived wait. Digital screens displaying promotions, commercials, or demonstrations will occupy and entertain customers, while in-line merchandising displays will extend the shopping experience as customers browse impulse-buy items. Another surprising way to cut perceived wait times is to make your wait times known. By publishing estimated wait times to customers in the queuing area, they know what to expect and are prevented from imagining the wait to be longer than it actually is.
If in-queue merchandising is an option for your business, this is a queuing practice you don’t want to overlook. Not only can in-queue merchandising turn your waiting line into a profit center, it can also serve to reduce perceived wait times since customers continue to shop while they wait. Consider a merchandising system that is easy to implement within your existing queue structure, such as merchandising panels that fit your stanchions and neatly accessorize with baskets, shelves, or post-top bowls.
Proactively monitoring your queue is a powerful way to improve customer satisfaction since it allows you to see and address problems before they get out of hand. Whether a queue is too long, a service agent is too slow, more agents need to be dispatched, or more lines could be opened up to move things along, a queue that is monitored can be managed. To assist you in monitoring your queue, powerful and easy-to-install queue management technology is available for people-counting, wait-time monitoring, and real-time queue analytics enable managers to anticipate heavy customer flow, communicate estimated wait times to customers, and make changes when lines fall out of compliance. Get inside your queue – literally and figuratively – and create your own set of best queuing practices for your business and the satisfaction of your customers.